Nixon speaks on tuition freeze, budget cuts

Of the $42 million in cuts to higher education funding, about $11 million would come from MU.

Gov. Jay Nixon spoke on an agreement with the presidents of Missouri universities to accept a 5.2 percent budget cut and freeze in-state tuition in the next academic year at a news conference Wednesday at the Reynolds Alumni Center.

The plan, which awaits approval from the Missouri General Assembly, includes a tuition freeze for in-state undergraduate students but wouldn’t rule out increases to student fees. Nixon said it’s too early to say whether tuition would rise for out-of-state and graduate students.

Gov. Jay Nixon first announced the agreement during visits to UM-St. Louis and Missouri State University on Tuesday and said keeping the cost of higher education low for Missourians is essential.

“Keeping education affordable is the best step we can take to turn this economy around,” Nixon said. “The link between education and economic recovery is clear.”

The agreement is an amended version of the tuition freeze for the current academic year which kept funding stable and calls for a $42 million cut in the $807.9 million allotted to Missouri’s 13 public universities. MU's tuition had increased every year for the past decade before the current freeze, with the largest increase in the 2003-2004 academic year.

According to a news release from the governor’s office, public colleges and universities nationwide raised tuition by an average of 6.5 percent last year, while Nixon froze Missouri’s in-state undergraduate tuition.

UM system President Gary Forsee said he agreed to the plan because he had feared the possibility of larger cuts from the state.

“It’s an indication of this governor’s support for higher education,” Forsee said at the news conference. “It’s a clear indication of the importance we all place on access and affordability for Missouri students to stay in school and get that degree.”

Of the $42 million in cuts, about $21 million would come from the UM system’s four campuses, and the majority of that — about $11 million — would come from MU. Forsee said the 5 percent cut is one of the best scenarios the university could have hoped for.

"This agreement mitigates the magnitude of the cut that higher education would otherwise have received and enables us to hold undergraduate tuition flat for one more year,” Forsee said.

The announcement comes just weeks after Nixon announced a second round of double-digit cuts to the budgets of several state agencies in an attempt to close a budget deficit projected earlier this year at $261 million.

Despite the agreement between the governor and university presidents, future Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Rob Mayer, R-Dexter, said in a news release Nixon is speaking too soon.

“We have yet to determine the coming year’s budget consensus revenue,” Mayer said. “That means we do not yet know how much money will even be in the state’s bank account to fund the critical functions of state government.”

The governing boards of each university, including the UM system Board of Curators, would also need to approve the agreement before it becomes official.

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